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McCain says Trump’s praise of North Korea, Philippines leaders is disturbing

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called into question President Donald Trump’s recent praise of the controversial leaders of North Korea and the Philippines.

“I think it’s very disturbing because we are proud Republicans and we stand for human rights,” McCain said in a Tuesday appearance with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Both North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte have raised international eyebrows.

North Korean officials have said the nation will deploy its nuclear arsenal should it go to war with the United States. The Trump administration has labeled North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as an urgent national security threat.

Earlier this week, Trump said he would be “honored” to meet with Kim — despite a recent escalation in tensions between the two nations.

“I don’t understand it and I don’t think the president appreciates the fact that when he says things like that it helps the credibility and prestige of this really outrageous strongman,” McCain said. “The largest gulag left on Earth is in North Korea.”

Duterte has championed a deadly war on illegal drugs, stirring a litany of controversies. He has condoned rape, likened himself to Adolf Hitler and faced accusations of personally killing drug suspects as a crime-fighting city mayor.

Trump has invited Duterte to the White House.

“This guy in the [Phillipines] … you can’t praise that kind of behavior and not raise concerns around the world.”

Though McCain understands the need to be diplomatic, he would prefer to see Trump take a similar stance to that of former President Ronald Reagan, who praised those who stood up to dictators.

“I wish the president would consider much more carefully, his comments, particularly in praise of North Korea,” McCain said. “[Kim]’s worse than dictators, he’s a despot. I’ve run out of adjectives and adverbs.”

The senator said the United States needs to retain its spot as the champion of those who speak out against dictators.

“One of the pillars of America and the reason why so many people around the world want to be like us is because we do stand for these things,” he said.

“No, I don’t want to fight every war and put down every brush fire, but I do believe that we have to stand for those fundamental principals so that we can assume a leadership role in the world.

“Otherwise we’re just like everybody else and I don’t want to be like everybody else.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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